June 22 (NBD) -- The World Cities Culture (Tianfu) Symposium was held in southwest China's Chengdu Wednesday, bringing together individuals and representatives from 22 member cities of the World Cities Culture Forum, 9 key cities along the Belt and Road Initiative route, as well as 400 cultural institutions.

John Howkins, renowned British economist and father of the creative economy, accepted NBD's interview before the opening of the Symposium. 

Chengdu, a wonderful place for creative economy

NBDWhat makes a creative city? In your view, how far away is Chengdu to be qualified as a creative city and what needs to be done to achieve that goal?

John Howkins: We are standing in the music park and that's one of the examples what Chengdu has done. Every time I come back to the music park, it's bigger and has more people there. That's a very good example. It is giving people the confidence, the courage and freedom to express themselves.

Government plays a part in that, companies play a part in that, but it is really up to the individuals to fight for that, to express themselves in ways that may be new, or may be different, or may not be immediately understandable by other people. To fight for that, to be creative, inventive, innovative, and turn those into businesses. I think Chengdu is a wonderful place to start that.

NBD: Chengdu government has been repeatedly emphasizing building creative economy. Is this something that government can initiate to produce concrete results?  

John Howkins: Government support, particularly in China, is absolutely crucial. It's essential, it's necessary, but it's not sufficient. The government can not do anything without individuals and companies. So the government can, in a sense, start it off and encourage it, but then it is really up to the people who help do it. If they rely on the government too much, it won't happen because creativity is very difficult, problematic, competitive and very international. You need individuals' ideas.

NBD: Who plays a more important role in building creative economy, individuals, businesses or the governments?

John Howkins: They work together, you cannot separate them out. The government has to set the framework and promote certain regulations. Government can support in many ways, some involve in money, some do not. Businesses have to work with governments. Businesses often have to take the initiative because businesses will understand their market better than governments do, in particular, foreign markets. The Chengdu government understands the Chinese market, probably does not understand the foreign market. That's the businesses' role. And within the businesses, it's the energy, determination, and hardwork of the people that will make a difference.  



Chinese companies make tremendous contributions to creative economy

NBD:In the past decade, many successful corporations like Alibaba and Tencent has emerged, and they have many creative and innovative products. Based on your experience and knowledge of China, what do you make of the creativity in these companies? How will they contribute to the development of China's creative economy?

John Howkins: I think Tencent is a remarkable company, perhaps the most remarkable for what it is doing. The recent investment of Google in JD.com is also a marker to very interesting development whereby Chinese companies and American companies have more commercial relationships and that's a good thing. I think digital, whether it's online apps, robotics, algorithums, is one of the most important development in China. The question now facing many of the companies is how do you sell what you are doing in China successfully, how do you sell it overseas, to Europe or America. They have already made tremendous contributions to the development of creative economy in China. They are doing good work, and they are moving very quickly. They now need to make sure what they are doing is accessible to people throughout the whole world.

NBD:One of your major interests is the use of intellectual property laws to support the creative economy. The protection of intellectual property in China has becoming increasingly strengthened in recent years. Do you have any suggestions for China to use intellectual property rights to support the development of the creative economy? 

John Howkins: The intellectual property laws in China are very good. The focus now should be on the enforcement of intellectual property laws. And I think also every business, every company that wants to do business outside of China has to learn more about the intellectual property laws in other countries, because as they do contracts, between themselves and companies from foreign countries, they need to understand the restrictions in other countries. This is not about the law, this is about the business. So many companies need to make sure the executives have the right expertise.


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Editor: Tan Yuhan